On reflection, my Lockdown project: Questing for Forest Cove ended up being about an old wall.
I don’t remember why I ever looked at google maps that day but it led me to go in search of a ‘way’. A well worn path which would take me somewhere; presumable the beach.
The ‘way’ I had misidentified on the map turned out to be an old slate wall; a boundary marker or stock proofing from the past, which had eroded and slipped from old age and lack of maintenance, into a brilliant gleaming mirror of rock for the satellite camera to pick up so sharply, so enticingly. So misleadingly.
In my pursuit I found a deer land. A creche for fauns. I intruded into a place where my presence was causing damage and distress. I won’t go back. I prefer to know it’s there than to be there.
The thing that haunts me is what that wall means.
In places the cliff edge has eaten in to it. From google maps you can see it’s original trajectory and the fresh landslips which have caused the cliff to take bites out of it; triangular wedges slipped to sea, of what was once good pasture. Even habitable land.
I mean I know about erosion, I went to school, but suddenly this non place seems so much more tangible, as if its negative is suspended there in the air above the glittering sea; suspended in recent past. This is the truly inaccessible land. No one is there, not even deer.
“Doggerland was the land that once connected England to Continental Europe, before it was lost beneath rising seas around 6500 BC. […] People lived there, hunted animals, dropped tools […] In the era of border walls and Brexit, I find the existence of Doggerland soothing to contemplate: a corrective to triumphalist ‘our island story’ nationalism.” p.135 Olivia Laing. ‘Funny Weather – Art in an Emergency’. 2020.
History is a weak defence to hate and ‘us against them’ rhetoric, and yet history is not so much an escape as a balm. In the face of so much chaos; the day to day mayhem of conflicting COVID government guideline announcements, state violence at BLM protests, and neo-fascist governments exposing their corruptions like it doesn’t even matter, we are being daily bombarded so relentlessly that there is no way to emotionally reflect before the next bulletin, let alone rationalise or begin to construct alternatives or responses.
History feels irrelevant in times of violence and global chaos, or like if it has relevance it needs to signify something more than an escape or pastime, like it has a duty to act as a defiance. I guess
a) history’s defiance needs to be the offering of proof that continuity exists and
b) history needs to make space and time slippery; opening borders between here and there, us and them, then, now, and the future.
The knowledge of this sparkling missing Doggerland that floats here in this thin air above the sea, brings the people of the past closer somehow. The ancestors and the spirits. You might think that nighttime was best for seeing ghosts, but I’d argue that you can see them better shimmering and silhouetted by broad summer sunlight.
That slate wall bordering Doggerland with Devon lead me somewhere other than the beach. Letting it go to the dogs is not an option, reparation of some kind is the destination.